The Boyfriend, by Thomas Perry (Mysterious Press):
Southern California writer Thomas Perry hit it big right off the bat, his 1983 suspenser, The Butcher’s Boy, winning an Edgar Award for Best First Novel. Since then, he’s produced a variety of standalone thrillers, as well as seven entries in a series featuring Native American “guide”/troubleshooter Jane Whitefield (most recently last year’s Poison Flower). The Boyfriend reintroduces protagonist Jack Till (Silence), who retired from the Los Angeles Police Department as a homicide detective after almost two dozen years and now earns a living as a private investigator, content to take on unremarkable cases that allow him time enough to help care for Holly, his 28-year-old daughter with Down syndrome. However, Till has recently taken on a more difficult assignment, to solve the slaying of high-end “professional escort” Catherine Hamilton. The cops have pretty much exhausted their interest in that murder, designating it a simple shooting in the course of a robbery. But Catherine’s parents want to know more. Till’s own digging around the details of Catherine’s demise soon reveals a disturbing pattern: she’s one in a string of female escorts, all with strawberry blond hair but residing in different towns, who’ve been killed in their homes with the same sort of gun. For Till to get to the bottom of it all, he’ll have to become intimately acquainted with the clandestine depths of the online escort business, and figure out some way to curtail the predations of a murderer unusually adept at getting close to women who are, by professional necessity, self-protective in the extreme.
* * *Also new this week is Birthdays for the Dead (Harper), which finds Scottish author Stuart MacBride putting aside his usual series protagonist, Aberdeen Detective Sergeant Logan McRae (Shatter the Bones), to take up the dark tale of Ash Henderson. This detective constable’s only daughter, Rebecca, vanished five years ago at age 13, evidently one in a string of girls taken by “The Birthday Boy,” a kidnapper/murderer who’s notorious for sending the parents of his victims homemade birthday cards that show their beloved offspring being tortured. (I did say this was a dark tale, didn’t I?) The thing is, though, Henderson isn’t publicizing his daughter’s fate; he tells everyone she ran away from home, because if others--including his new partner, a “mentally unstable psychologist” named Alice McDonald--knew the truth, he’d almost surely be booted from the Birthday Boy case, and he doesn’t want out until he’s had the chance to take vengeance on his daughter’s killer. This can be a difficult read at times, but MacBride is a skilled storyteller who can keep you flipping pages even though you fear what might happen next.
READ MORE: “Leggin’ It,” by J. Kingston Pierce (Killer Covers).